Advent Week Three: Joy

What was your childhood Christmas experience like? Were you one who could barely sleep Christmas Eve in anticipation for the morning? Did you play with your new toys all day and look forward to family festivities? Or would you prefer to sleep in until noon and binge watch Christmas movies all day?

I loved Christmas morning as a child! My brother and I made a pact that we would wake up in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve to see Santa. It was silly considering we both loved our sleep. We never actually did wake up in the night, but we were raring to go in the early morning! My parents had given me a musical keyboard one year. I got SO excited, I, “lost my cookies!”

This complete excitement is like the joy you can feel in moments of awe and wonder with your Saviour, Jesus Christ.

As you continue to grow in your knowledge of the Bible, you’ll learn the deeper meanings behind every story. It’s an endless pursuit of wisdom. The Lord has so intricately connected each idea, that it’ll take an eternity to understand it all. That’s part of where joy can be found in Him.

No matter how many times you read the Christmas story, you can find aspects that will leave you in awe of God.

“But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: 11 Today in the city of David a Savior was born for you, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped tightly in cloth and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:

14 Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace on earth to people he favors!

15 When the angels had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” Luke 2:10-15 (Italics added)

Can you imagine the joy some people must have felt when the Messiah came? Those who waited expectantly for Him and saw some of the prophecies being fulfilled before their very eyes?! This “great joy” overwhelmed them!

“The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had seen and heard, which were just as they had been told.” Luke 2:20

Joy produces praise and glory to God. It’s an outpouring of the emotion exploding within. It’s all encompassing when you get a close taste of the presence and power of God at work.

“You reveal the path of life to me;
in your presence is abundant joy;
at your right hand are eternal pleasures.” Psalm 16:11

Getting a close-up look at Jesus produces, “abundant joy.” It’s like being star-struck. Your eyes widen, words become void, breath is trapped, and a gaping smile spreads across your face. Your heart is overwhelmed with love. You’re paralyzed for a moment. You never want this moment to end and you’re unsure how you’ll ever be able to explain your encounter with someone else. That’s the power of the Lord’s presence.

If only you could remain in that state for life. Reality sets in that you still live in a fallen world and He’s given you a mission to complete. This seems to diminish some of your joy.

Once you accept God’s gift of salvation, a measure of joy begins to build in your spirit, fueled by the Holy Spirit and the hope you have in the Lord.

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

The Holy Spirit equips you with His joy to get through the trials of this life. God knows it’s not easy. It isn’t like Christmas is protected from suffering every year. In fact, I know many people who have grieved the loss of loved ones around this holiday or have faced other difficult news. The enemy is on a mission to steal your joy and what better time to do it than when you’re supposed to be celebrating the fulfilled promise of the Saviour’s birth?

Maybe Christmas hasn’t been enjoyable for you in the past. You were hopeful that the holiday would be special each year, but your anticipation was dashed from family tension, illness, loss, or financial challenges. Now you just want to get the holiday over with.

Can you still have joy while suffering?

Jesus understood suffering intimately:

“He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of suffering who knew what sickness was.
He was like someone people turned away from;
he was despised, and we didn’t value him.

Yet he himself bore our sicknesses,
and he carried our pains;
but we in turn regarded him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced because of our rebellion,
crushed because of our iniquities;
punishment for our peace was on him,
and we are healed by his wounds.
We all went astray like sheep;
we all have turned to our own way;
and the Lord has punished him
for the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:3-6

Even though He endured all of that for us, Hebrews 12:2 says that, “…For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Jesus didn’t place His joy in people or situations in His physical life. He looked “for the joy that lay before Him.” What was that joy? It was taking back authority from Satan, and ruling over heaven and earth. It was the gift He was about to offer to the world – the gift of salvation, of conquering sin and death so that you and I may accept it and be adopted into the family of God. The gift of living in holy union with Jesus for all of eternity.

Jesus didn’t focus on His present pain. He, “endured the cross and despised the shame,” because He knew the outcome would be worth it. So, He chose to suffer, while holding onto the joy awaiting Him.

This is the joy you can hold onto as well, no matter the situation you’re in.

So, as Christmas approaches, ask the Lord to help you hold onto His joy. Come to Him with praise, and receive the gifts of salvation, joy, peace, love, and hope He’s offering you this Christmas.

Remember that God is all joy. He delights in His children. As you come to Him, He is sitting on His throne, His face lit up with a beautiful smile, His heart overflowing with joy for you. As much as your joy  for Him can leave you in awe and wonder, His joy for you is a thousand times more than you’ll ever understand.

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